Stoudemire, Diaw Out
The Phoenix Suns' chances of advancing to the Western Conference finals have taken a hit as nasty as the one Robert Horry gave Steve Nash.
The NBA suspended Suns All-Star center Amare Stoudemire and his teammate Boris Diaw on Tuesday for Wednesday night's Game 5 of Phoenix's conference semifinal series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Oddsmakers have made Phoenix -1.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 202.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on San Antonio +1.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).
Their offense: leaving the bench area following Horry's flagrant foul on Nash in the waning seconds of Monday night's 104-98 come-from-behind Suns' win in San Antonio that squared the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Horry, who sent the Suns' crafty playmaker flying into the scorer's table with 18 seconds to play, was suspended two games for the flagrant foul and for striking Raja Bell above the shoulders with a forearm.
Phoenix got the worst of it in the ruling by commissioner David Stern under the recommendation of executive vice president Stu Jackson.
Horry is a reserve role player. Stoudemire is a first-team all-NBA selection who leads the Suns in scoring and rebounding through the first four games of the series. Diaw would have been his replacement.
``I feel like I've been punched in the gut,'' Suns owner Robert Sarver said.
Jackson said the league does not want to influence the outcome of a series but had no choice in the matter.
``This is a very unfortunate circumstance,'' he said during a conference call. ``No one here at the league office wants to suspend players any game, much less a pivotal game in the second round of a playoff series. But the rule, however, is the rule, and we intend to apply it consistently.''
Stoudemire is averaging 23.5 points and 10.3 rebounds in the series. His loss removes the Suns' imposing inside presence. Phoenix's problems are compounded by the absence of Diaw, who started when Stoudemire missed all but three games last season because of surgeries on both knees.
Horry, meanwhile, is best known for his clutch 3-pointers and has scored 4.8 points per game.
``I feel it's terribly wrong,'' Sarver said. ``I feel we've been unjustly penalized for the fact that we played a clean, hard game. I feel if any team should have been penalized in this series, it should be the Spurs and it shouldn't be us.''
Asked if he thought it was a fair decision, Jackson said, ``It's not a matter of fairness, it's a matter of correctness, and this is the right decision at this point in time.''
Jackson said it was clear that Stoudemire and Diaw had violated the rule, saying they were ``20 to 25 feet'' from their seats.
``Both players stood and made their way towards the altercation which occurred on the court,'' Jackson said. ``They did not remain in the bench area.''
The Suns' coaches quickly pushed the two players back to the bench, but the damage had been done, even though neither player reached the confrontation.
The suspensions deflate a Suns team that finished Game 4 with a 16-3 run to regain home-court advantage.
``I think we had the momentum going,'' Sarver said, ``and for Robert Horry to be rewarded like that to me is unbelievable. I can't see the justice in it, but it is what it is. We'll play hard and do the best we can.''
Sarver said that seeking a change in the rule would be at the top of his agenda for next season.
``The team that plays dirty should not be rewarded, and the team that plays fair should not be penalized,'' he said.
Sarver wasn't counting his severely depleted team out.
``When you've got Nash and Raja and Kurt (Thomas) and Leandro (Barbosa) on the court, you can't bet against them no matter what the odds are, but I just feel horrible about it,'' Sarver said. ``The guys played so well last night. They were so gritty and they hung tough and they beat the Spurs at their own game.
``They won the type of game we wouldn't have won two years ago. It was a big step forward for us, a big step forward for the team and the organization.''
Jackson brushed aside a suggestion that Tim Duncan violated the rule in the second quarter when he rushed onto the court after Francisco Elson dunked and landed on the shoulders of the Suns' James Jones.
``Both players got up,'' Jackson said. ``There was no altercation, and they ran down to the other end of the court.''
Jackson also wasn't buying Stoudemire's contention he had a right to be at the scorer's table because he was checking in to the game.
``I've not seen a player report in quite that way,'' Jackson said.
The suspensions are the latest twist in an intriguing series that's featured several rough plays.
Nash has received the brunt of it. He missed a critical portion of the final minute of Game 1 because of a bloody gash in his nose, the result of a head-on collision with Tony Parker.
But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn't even think Horry's foul on Nash was that bad.
``It was just an end-of-game foul and Steve fell down,'' Popovich said before the penalties were announced. ``I didn't think it was such a big deal.''
After Game 2, Stoudemire called the Spurs ``a dirty team,'' specifically mentioning Bruce Bowen and Manu Ginobili.
In Game 3, Bowen kneed Nash in the groin, but the NBA decided no suspension was warranted.
After he went back to the bench following Horry's foul, Stoudemire chose to rub it in.
He turned to the Spurs crowd and chanted ``Dirty, dirty, dirty.''
``Can I get a `dirty' now?'' Stoudemire shouted. ``Now, was I out of line?''
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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